REVIEW: Good Sheppard can still pull in a crowd

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‘Good Sheppard comes to the Arts Centre’.

Dylan Howe’s Subterranean with Andy Sheppard.

Studio, Warwick Arts Centre.

Saturday, 18 October 2014.

Saxophonist Andy Sheppard’s appearances at the late lamented Coventry Jazz Festival were always eagerly anticipated, and back on local turf he shows he can still pull a crowd.

This time he is the featured soloist in drummer Dylan Howe’s Subterranean project, putting a new spin on the instrumental side of David Bowie’s 1977 Berlin albums, Low and Heroes.

And as usual he’s a powerful force who somehow manages to retain a calm and melodic sense to his playing, even at full belt.

Howe’s five-piece is backlit by gritty helicopter-filmed video of Berlin in the 1970s, long before the fall of the Wall, all trigger-happy border guards, vast concrete mausoleums and Red Army Faction graffiti.

And if the music from his Subterranean album, played from beginning to end, does not always match the brooding menace of this bleak dystopia – at times it’s almost whimsical – when the band really get cracking the sound is dark and mesmerising.

That said, I’d like to have heard a solo or two more from Steve Lodder on synthesizers, putting in an effective shift as the underlay to the music but not given enough opportunities to step into the light.

However, when jazz is struggling to find a new audience, it’s good to see a fair smattering of young heads among an enthusiastic crowd, whose generous response draws smiles from the musicians.

Rating: 7/10.

By Peter Walters